Day 116 Ethiopia : Debre Tabor - Lalibela

Day 116 Ethiopia

Trip Distance 211 km (131 m) Total Distance 13382 km (8317 m)
Road Condition 5% tar 95% dirt, corrugation, mud  
Time to travel 20 minutes 6 hrs 9 mins 23 secs (!!)  
Stopover
Lalibela
7 Olives Hotel N12.03535 E39.04683 EB265 - En suite, hot showers when electricity available, flushing loo, the bathrooms although dirty and grubby has the most amazing hot shower

Today was a really long haul.  We had been contemplating driving straight down to Addis and flying to Lalibela but after hearing the prices (US$400 each) we decided to drive despite the locals warning that the road conditions were bad.  Anja and Joerg who we'd met in Aqaba, Jordan, had just done the trip 3 days earlier so with this in mind we made an early start and set off from the Hibret at 8am.  The weather was clear, the sun shining and the roads had dried out a bit by the time we were on our way.  We had used the same factors in deciding the time to leave that we had used on the Gorgora road.  The roads are dirt but they are reasonably maintained because they are major routes for buses and mini-buses for the local communities.  So as long as you wait until a few hours after the first traffic has traversed the roads (local transport starts at 6am) and if you are lucky enough during the rainy season to have some sun in the morning (this pretty much is how it is anyway as you can set your watch at 3pm when the rain starts normally), the roads are probably in quite a good state to use. 

About 2 hours down the road we stopped for some breakfast and coffee. a_SG104415 We have discovered, as most travellers do, that in Ethiopia you seldom, if ever, have a moment to yourself.  Anything, even eating breakfast, is a spectator sport and within minutes of stopping you are surrounded by locals just watching, some making an attempt to beg but most just standing starring at these mad ferangis. 

The road to Lalibela continues to climb and climb and climb and climb and the view is quite breathtaking a_SG104417 a_SG104421 .  At some point later in the afternoon as the weather started to close in, we drove into the clouds and and had to navigate through them at the highest points!

The last 16kms just before Lalibela, the road changed back to asphalt (oh bliss! and I will NEVER moan about tar surfaces again!) and we got to the hotel as the heavens opened.  I don't know whether we mentioned this before but the rains have come late to Ethiopia and as a result the dam levels are low.  The up shot of this is that there is not enough electricity for the country to have it 100% so the government practices load shedding.  There is normally (but not always!) a schedule for the outages and it turns out that Friday is a day that the power is off in Lalibela. So without hot water or lights, we cracked open the laptop and watched a movie between dozing and relaxing. 

A late supper was in order, so we popped through to the hotel restaurant and ate our food and drank a bottle of red wine by candlelight :o)  The restaurant food is to be recommended and is well worth a visit - the injeera with Tibs and Kai Wat is fab.  We met up with Iain and Ryan here - 2 motorcyclists from UK driving to South Africa - this wasn't to be the last time we'd see them.